Heroes who belie horror stories about care of sick and dying
Heroes who belie horror stories about care of sick and dying
Sir: When people think of how they would prefer to die, many envisage themselves dying peacefully at home, at a ripe old age, surrounded by their family. My father was one of those people, but at 86 and dying from a number of different tumours it seemed that it would be hard to make a happy ending to the story.
My father was, in his day, a dedicated writer of "letters to the editor" (none of which I think you published) and he tasked me to write to you after his death as he was very conscious that carers, the NHS and social services in particular, get a bad name in the press. He wanted everyone to know that not only did the NHS and social services support him in his aim of dying peacefully at home, but that the care provided by the district nurses and social services carers went far beyond that of dedicated professionals - all the carers really did care, both for him and for our family.
In our case there were no horror stories of continuing care fiascos, no negligent GPs, no heartless nurses, just a cast of seeming thousands who went far beyond the call of any duty to help him make his last final dream come true. These are the true heroes of our nation - would that we could honour them with a victory parade through London.
Amused and terrified by hunt protesters
Sir: Walking through the crowds demonstrating in Westminster against the hunting ban was a terrifying, amusing and baffling experience.
Pleasant looking middle-aged women turned their signs around to reveal slogans such as "Save a cow; eat a vegetarian". Amusing in another setting, but scary in this. Heavy-set men with shaved heads, narrowed, suspicious eyes and bare arms covered in tattoos glared at anyone who came too close.
A landowner dressed top-to-tail in tweed, carrying an almost empty pint, waxed lyrical to bemused police officers about how it's his land and he should be able to do what he wants. The speeches were another source of amusement as speakers whined about the "mean-spirited" Government stopping them enjoying hunting and, after all, "hunting is fun!" And, as one pointed out, what's the point of chasing some fellow with a kipper tied to his foot?
As I write this letter, I can see on the BBC that demonstrators are throwing themselves against the barriers to clash with the police. Tweed is flying as well as fists.
As for the hounds that will be put down - why don't the approximately 7,000 people in attendance devote their efforts to creating a fund to save them? I'm sure certain members of the Countryside Alliance have enough disposable income to sponsor a hound or two. And, after the ban, they can devote their usual hunting time to taking the dogs for a walk.
Sir: The Hunting Bill has been variously interpreted by the hunting lobby as an attack on the rural community, on a pest control service, and most latterly on civil liberties. As the leading organisation campaigning against hunting with dogs, the League Against Cruel Sports has tirelessly refuted these claims.
The majority of those in the countryside support a ban on hunting according to a MORI poll conducted in 2000 (52 per cent for and 28 per cent against). On the subject of pest control, the Burns Committee found, "It is clear that only a small proportion of foxes kill lambs." Fox numbers do not need to be controlled because fox populations naturally self-regulate according to food availability. If the aim of hunting is to control fox numbers, then why have hunts purposely bred, encouraged and fed foxes in man-made underground chambers to ensure a good supply for the chase?
The bottom line is quite clear. There is no moral justification for not implementing the ban on hunting with dogs three months after Royal Assent has been given to the Hunting Bill. Seventy-six per cent of the public wants to see hunting with dogs banned. If hunts convert to drag hunting, no jobs will be lost, no hounds put down, and no foxes savaged.
As for challenging the Bill on the grounds of civil liberties - there can be no freedom within civilised societies to be cruel. The aim of the Hunting Bill is not to criminalise a minority, but to continue our progress as a modern humane society.
Chief Executive, League Against Cruel Sports, London SE1
Saving the planet
Sir: Most people think that the climate has gone a bit funny. The world's top scientists tell us that climate change is happening. Tony Blair, belatedly, thinks it's happening ("Blair pledges to use G8 presidency to act on global warming", 15 September). One man doesn't believe it and he happens to be the President of the United States.
And the US produces a quarter of the world's greenhouse gases.
Gentle words and persuasion don't work with George Bush. The President will not act until he's staring down the barrel of a gun.
The guns are lining up in the Caribbean. Charley, Frances, Ivan and their friends might succeed where Tony has failed. Only when the realisation sinks in that even the mighty US military cannot bomb the climate back into the Stone Age or when his brother's state is flattened by the mother of all hurricanes will Dubya see the light.
It's unfortunate for the inhabitants of the Caribbean now and the rest of us later. But it's the only language the President understands.
Sir: I read with interest of Tony Blair's concern with the UK meeting its Kyoto Protocol targets, with the unspoken suggestion that a new round of nuclear reactor building may be necessary.
We are facing the biggest challenge to the continuation of the human species there has yet been - namely the combined threats of global climate change and the end of industrial civilisation, brought on by the end of fossil fuel supplies.
We are faced with a stark choice. Either we can choose to take responsibility for our own existence - give up the use of oil and gas, run our home heating systems on wood-burning stoves and boilers, heat our water with solar thermal collectors, grow food in our gardens, and generate our own electricity from local, renewable sources such as hilltop wind farms and wood-fired combined heat and power stations - or we can have an energy solution forced upon us by our government, which means that instead of that unsightly wind farm, we will have a nuclear reactor upwind from our town instead, along with a centrally-controlled police state, restrictions on movement, and rationing.
We must realise that neither this government, nor any of the opposition parties, have a solution to our looming energy problems. When Tony Blair joined the US in a last desperate rush for the world's remaining oil resources, we cried "warmonger". When he suggests building new nuclear power stations, we cry "destroyer of our environment". Yet when we are offered local wind farms to provide a secure energy supply for ourselves, our family and our friends, we say "wind turbines look ugly and spoil the landscape".
When the crisis comes, and the police and army are using live ammunition to control the rioting, we will try to blame the Government - but in reality we will have only ourselves to blame.
It is time for humanity's great coming of age - a sobering experience after the wild partying of the last 300 years.
Sir: This government has already achieved more than any predecessor on the environment. The threat of climate change, however, will need an even bigger push, so I welcome the Prime Minister's speech on the affects of global warming.
The real challenge about climate change is how we deal with the energy needs of big urban areas, such as London. In central London the congestion charge has already resulted in a 19 per cent cut in carbon dioxide emissions. The next challenge is to cut emissions in buildings.
Wind farms and tidal power offer a good example of what can be achieved through renewable energy but they still rely on transporting electricity over long distances via the national grid. This results in a huge waste of energy. The solution is to generate more of our energy supply locally and to exploit the opportunities for combined heat and power and solar. There is even the potential for new smaller-scale urban wind turbines. In London, we are using the power of regional government to establish a Climate Change Agency that will take up many of these solutions.
Cities will be the key to success in tackling climate change. If we can tackle the energy needs of large conurbations then we will be able to meet our international targets for reducing carbon emissions. If not, we will be in trouble.
Deputy Mayor of London
Sir: I Enjoyed your articles on the dangers of climate change on Tuesday. Also enjoyed the "buy more cars" motoring supplement. When are we going to see a regular public transport supplement?
Newcastle upon Tyne
Batman at the Palace
Sir: I am not a bit surprised if the mother of Jason Hatch's children is reluctant for them to spend much time with an individual so patently juvenile.
The "Batman" protester is lucky to live in a country where this sort of puerile stunt is treated so lightly - in fact he is lucky not to have been shot by the police. (Then what crocodile tears we would have witnessed from his supporters!) Given the tenor of the times it is the height of irresponsibility to behave in this way.
Fathers4Justice may well have a case, but they are busy destroying it in the eyes of the general public. They profess to want greater input into their children's lives and upbringing - I can't quite get my head round why they think this sort of nonsense furthers their cause.
Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk
Sir: The current furore about the care of children post-separation risks obscuring the dominant social trend in parenting. It mistakenly convinces people that the chief characteristic of fatherhood is conflict with motherhood.
In fact, the biggest change is a tremendous and exciting revolution in which most mothers and fathers now share the roles of both caring and providing for their families with greater co-operation and equality than ever before.
For example, in typical families, fathers of under-fives now provide about one third of the parental childcare, according to research published by the Equal Opportunities Commission. It is a shame they cannot all gather outside Buckingham Palace so everyone could appreciate the scale of the change through which we are living.
Sir: The Independent has given serious coverage over recent weeks to issues covering "profits before ethics" in the legal profession and the increasing number of divorces and the potential impact on children.
However, when a group takes peaceful direct action (with a slice of humour) to correct what they see as an injustice, you write it off as a "silly stunt" (leading article, 14 September)
To many separated parents and their children Batman and his stunts represent about the only symbol of hope. Anyone lost in the perverse world of the English family law system could do with cheering up. Most importantly, the law needs to change. I think you should treat Batman and his friends with a little more respect.
Sir: Your leader writer's reference to protests by Fathers4Justice as stupid stunts seeking childish attention is unfair. The normal route to expose injustice and unfairness is not open to us.
Family court proceedings are held in secret and are not open to public attention or scrutiny. I know: I've been involved and I've been threatened with an injunction to prevent me from speaking to the press. If I cannot speak then I must be allowed to campaign.
Downpatrick, Co Down
Junk mail triumph
Sir: Junk mail (letters; 9, 11 September) should be welcomed. Treasure it, collect it and use every reply-paid envelope to send it back - either to the original sender or better still to another offender. The beauty is they have paid for it. I know - it is a minor triumph, but deeply satisfying for all that. It helps the poor old GPO too.
Sir: Kathleen Moyse's letter (14 September) took me back to my 1950s grammar school. We in the "B" form had to do "domestic science". I remember being given the ingredients for a dish called "cauliflower au gratin" which called for margarine, white bread, and a cauliflower which had to be boiled for 40 minutes. My mother (who was French) denounced this barbarity and complained loudly and embarrassingly. She got her way. I was excused DS as I had a difficult foreign mother and the English continued in their unreformed way without challenge.
Sir: Michael Baldwin (letter, 15 September) can be reassured that Archbishop John Pecham wasn't all bad. His textbook of optics circulated widely across Europe for several hundred years. Though not up to the standard of the best Arab work of the time (Ibn al-Haytham of Basra, whose descendants we are bombing today), it represented the state of the art in the West until Kepler.
School of Mathematical Sciences
Queen Mary, University of London
Degrees of outrage
Sir: Regarding your report on the atrocities in Darfur and the World Health Organisation's assessment thereof ("Darfur death rates still 'disturbing', says WHO", 14 September), I wonder just how many more atrocities it will take to raise that assessment from disturbed to perturbed.
Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, USA